An Inside Look at How to Have a Mentor

An Inside Look at How to Have a MentorThis post is a 3 minute read.

Earlier this year I hit the wall that so many people in their twenties fear. It was tall and coarse and reminded me that I didn’t know everything or else wouldn’t I have seen the wall coming? I was in a place in my career trajectory where I felt that I needed to do something but wasn’t sure what. Am I happy? Is this a phase? Oh god: Who am I? I asked myself these questions over and over again, essentially spinning my wheels further into the dirt, still in front of the wall, getting absolutely nowhere.

I turned to my husband and I asked, “What do I do?” He simply replied, “You need a mentor.”

Yes! That’s it. A mentor will solve everything. They’re much smarter and much older and much more experienced and so they will simply give me the solution over a cup of coffee.

But where does one find a mentor? Also, is it something you inquire about online? Is an email too formal? Am I allowed to ask just anyone?

Finding a mentor began creating more questions than it was answering, and it became daunting to think about. So, I did what any resourceful Millennial would do, and I took to Google. Here’s what I learned (and actually did):

Yes, you can ask anyone to be your mentor.

As it turns out, it does not have to be the VP of Marketing. It can be someone who’s just three or four steps ahead of your trajectory. It can actually be more useful to seek someone who’s only a few years more experienced than you because they can remember the experiences you’re detailing more vividly and will have a more time-appropriate solve.

No, they will not give you a solution.

In fact, this is the test of a good mentor. When you spell out your frustration, ask them for guidance and guidance only. A good mentor will help you map out scenarios and ask thought provoking questions to help you navigate your own path. While we all would like to wave a wand and have the answer magically appear, the learning comes from the experience of climbing the wall yourself.

Yes, they should align with your anticipated career path (in some way).

This was tough because I didn’t know what my path would be. I’m in my twenties, I’m in a mid-level position, and I have a set of skills that are general enough that I can do many things. Fun! What I did next was hone in on what I knew was important. My mentor should be a woman because I care about how women get ahead. My mentor should be a mom or want to have children, because I do, too. My mentor should have similar values to me: curiosity, freedom, play, and trust. Above all, my mentor should want to be in a place where they are ready to be a mentor.

Yes, your relationship should be two-sided.

As I saw it, someone was providing a service to me and it was my duty to make sure I held up my end of the bargain. I would ask for coffee, work around their schedule, be on time, come prepared with questions, and follow up with an email or text about our conversation so they knew I was taking this seriously. This is so important because mentors are receiving growth opportunities, too, and they can’t learn if you don’t. Make it a point to continue the conversation via email or a phone call in the coming weeks to make sure you got what you needed, and they did, too.

Above all else, be honest. This is when all of the pieces come together, because through an honest discussion with someone you trust and/or respect, you can unearth the answers you’re looking for. You will secure in your knowing that you’re seeking a trusted resource, that someone has walked this path before, and that you can and will come out the other side, one way or another, because they have.

So to find a mentor, you should look to the people you trust, emphasize your seriousness to learn, and put into the relationship as much as you can, because the rewards are boundless.

Oh, and that wall? Totally climbable.

This is a guest blog post by Taylor Toledo-Kearns. Taylor is a Senior Brand Manager with 3fold Communications. By day, she works with education clients on their marketing campaigns and brand strategies. When she clocks out, she's a member of Inspire Giving's advisory board, a board member for Reading Partners, and a member of Metro EDGE. Her passions are organizational development, personal health and wellness, and her sweet pup, Porter.